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Death of Osama Bin Laden: End (Beginning?) of an Era

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By now you’ve probably read any of the extensive coverage on the death of Osama Bin Laden.  For me, the news came with mixed emotions.

There are two signature events in my generation of government security professionals: the 1998 East Africa Bombings, which resulted in the Inman report that is still utilized as guidance for new embassy construction, and of course 9/11 and the acceleration of heightened awareness of the threat Americans face overseas.  With both of these tragedies, funding and personnel have poured in as DS quietly assumed more and more responsibilities.  It is somewhat sobering to think that without Bin Laden, a great number of people (including myself) might not have their current job.

I highly disagree with the assessment that removing OBL from the picture will have no effect on Al Qaeda’s potency.  Replacing a well-respected, knowledgeable leader in any organization is difficult, and though I’ve certainly never been in a comparable situation I’d venture to guess that the death of a leader previously thought “invincible” by large numbers of brainwashed, starry-eyed young men has to have a negative effect on morale.  If that means one less suicide bomber that dons their vest it has to be considered worth the time and trouble.

“Every cloud has a silver lining” the saying goes, and this is even true for OBL.  Every attack by Al Qaeda teaches us something new; some small chink in the armor that needs to be patched to keep Americans safe.  Like a good coach, we’ve learned our opposition’s playbook through observation and have defended accordingly- whether the defense involves simple mantraps all the way up to UAVs.

Finally, it saddened me when the media touted “No American casualties” in subsequent reporting on the raid.  Bin Laden’s final undoing cannot be considered a casualty-free success.  Thousands gave their lives in this 10-year odyssey across the globe.  The world may be a safer place, but it is still dangerous.  While his death might be the end of an era, the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice would not want us to let down our guard again.  Today, all Americans should be proud of their country, their government, and their resilience… but also mindful that freedom is truly not free.

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Written by OSB

03/05/2011 at 20:09

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